How Does the Court Determine Child Support in Texas?
Parents have a legal obligation to financially support their children by providing basic needs like food, healthcare, clothing, and shelter. Whether parents divorce, or if they were never married to begin with, child support obligations are intended to ensure that each parent contributes financially to their child’s upbringing.
However, calculating child support can be complex. First, the court will look at the non-custodial parent’s income, including wages, salary, and tips. They will also consider other factors, such as the parent’s other obligations and the child’s needs, such as if they attend private school or have medical needs.
Generally, the custodial parent will not be required to pay child support, as it is intended to equal the costs of meeting the child’s needs.
Contact Skillern Firm For Experienced Representation
At Skillern Firm, our team of experienced family law attorneys are ready to help. We always prioritize the needs of children in every family law matter, while ensuring that our client’s rights are protected.
We will help ensure a fair child support agreement that meets your needs and your child’s. We will use our skills in mediation to help you and your ex-spouse come to an amicable agreement. Where this is not possible, we will be prepared to fight for your rights in court.
What Is Child Support?
When a child’s parents are separated, the child will usually live with one parent for the majority of the time, known as the custodial parent. This is decided in a child custody agreement, often with the help of a family law attorney, such as those here at Skillern Firm.
The other parent is considered the non-custodial parent, and will usually have visitation rights. The non-custodial parent is expected to pay child support to help cover the child’s basic needs. Most of the time, child support is a court order, even if the order is based on an agreement that parents came to using mediation.
In Texas, the person who pays child support is called the ‘obligor’, and the person who receives it is called the ‘obligee’. The obligee is almost always the custodial parent, who incurs most of the living expenses of the child.
How Does the Court Determine Child Support in Texas?
To calculate child support, the court will apply child support guidelines that are based on family law. A basic child support obligation sets a minimum amount.
Child support guidelines are presumed to be reasonable, and orders in line with guidelines are thought to be in the best interests of the child. However, in high-asset divorces, those involving increased needs of the child, or in situations where the paying parent is unable to meet minimum payments, the court may deviate from guidelines.
How is Child Support Determined in Texas?
In Texas, the amount of child support is determined by state guidelines. The following child support guidelines are set out in Texas family law:
- One Child – 20% of Net Monthly Income (NMI)
- Two Children – 25% NMI
- Three Children – 30% NMI
- Four Children = 35% NMI
- Five Children = 40% NMI
- Six Children – No less than 40% of NMI
If the obligor NMI is over $7500, then the calculations will be applied above to the first $7500. However, if the obligee can prove that the child has needs that warrant more child support, such as extra medical costs or education costs, then the obligor may be ordered to pay more.
How Is Net Monthly Income (NMI) Calculated?
NMI is calculated by dividing gross annual income by 12 to determine a monthly average. When determining annual gross income, the court will consider net resources, including:
- Wages and salary
- Royalty income
- Self-employment income.
- Net rental income
- Retirement or pensions
- Social security, unemployment, or disability benefits
- Workers compensation
If the obligor is intentionally making less then they have the potential too, by intentionally being unemployed or underemployed then the court could order a child support obligation based on what their net resources have the potential to be.
Will The Court Consider Parents’ Living Expenses When Determining Child Support?
Once the court has considered a parent’s gross income from all sources, they will then make certain deductions. Deductions include income tax, federal income tax, social security taxes, health insurance for the child, and union dues.
Judges will often consider other expenses, depending on what they are. The top priority is the best interests of the child. Therefore, the Judge will not lower the child support obligation because a parent pays a high amount of rent.
Some of the reasons why a court may deviate from child support guidelines include:
- A parent has high medical expenses
- A parent has a very low or very high income
- A parent has financial obligations for a disabled family member or other children
- Education costs from either parent to improve earning capacity
- Child’s school tuition
- Increased needs of the child
Can There Be Deviations From Child Support Guidelines?
The court can deviate from child support guidelines if they determine that it is in the child’s best interests. The court can consider anything that is relevant, including the child’s age and needs, the parent’s ability to make payments, and the amount of time each parent spends with their child.
Medical Care Child Support Obligations in Texas
Parents are also required to ensure that their children have access to medical care. The court will therefore consider the ability of either parent to provide health insurance.
The court will consider the cost and quality of health insurance and whether it is available at a reasonable cost through one of the parent’s employers, trade association, membership in a union, or other organization. They will also consider whether coverage is available at a reasonable cost through another source.
Child Support for Adult Disabled Children
If a child requires care and supervision due to a mental or physical disability that existed before that child turned 18, then it may be necessary to secure child support from one or both parents for an indefinite period.
A parent or a person with physical custody or guardianship can apply for child/adult support under a court order. If capable, the individual who requires support can seek a court order for financial support as well.
Can Child Support Payments Be Backdated in Texas?
If an obligor has not been paying child support, then the court could order for back-payments to be paid.
To determine the amount of retroactive child support, the court will look at the net resources of the obligor in the relevant time period. They will also consider whether an order would impose undue hardship and whether the obligor provided support or necessities during the relevant time period.
If retroactive payments are being considered from the father of the child, then the court will also consider whether the mother made any attempts to let him know of his paternity
Retroactive child support payments can be ordered for the four years preceding the date of the petition. However, if the obligee can prove that the obligor should have known that they owed child support and sought to avoid it, then they could be ordered to make back payments exceeding four years.
Can a Child Support Order Be Changed?
Once a child support order has been issued, it creates a legal obligation. However, it is possible to file for a child support modification if it can be proven that there has been a substantial change in circumstances.
For example, if the obligor has lost their job, the custody agreement has changed, or the child has increasing needs.
A modification is also possible if the child support order has been in place for three years or more, and the support amount based on current guidelines varies by 20% or $100.
A Judge will need to approve a child support modification, which they will do based on the child’s best interest. If parents cannot agree, then one will need to file a motion with the court. The judge will usually not consider it unless there has been a substantial change. It is beneficial to seek the help of an attorney who can help you file a motion with the court and provide evidence for your requests.
Can Parents Make A Child Support Agreement Without Court Involvement?
Skillern Firm prioritizes mediation and negotiation wherever possible. This allows parents to come to decisions on things like child custody and child support with minimum court involvement, although the court will need to approve any decisions made.
Minimizing court involvement is beneficial for many reasons. It moves the process along faster and saves money on court fees. It also helps foster an amicable relationship between parents, which is also beneficial to the children involved.
At Skillern Firm, we are also skilled litigators, and if your case requires increased court involvement, then we will help protect your rights and interests.
Enforcing Child Support in Texas
Child support obligations are legally binding. Therefore, if the obligor repeatedly misses child support payments, then they could be guilty of contempt. Missed child support payments never disappear so they could be made to back pay any missed payments with interest.
If you are in a position where you cannot afford child support payments, then you should file a motion for change with the court with the help of a family law attorney.
When Does Child Support End in Texas?
In Texas, child support payments are usually payable until a child turns 18, or they graduate from high school, whichever event comes later. However, if the child has ongoing needs, then the obligor may be required to make payments for an extended amount of time.
Hire a Skilled Child Support Lawyer From Skillern Firm
Child support decisions are extremely important. They may impact your life and the lives of your children for many years to come. Therefore it is essential that decisions are reached that are fair and reasonable.
The best way to ensure a favorable outcome is to secure representation from a family law attorney who has navigated similar cases to yours in the past.
Skillern Firm is a family law firm based in Houston, Texas. We have a long history of success for our clients and won’t rest until we believe you are being treated justly.
We take a personalized approach to the attorney-client relationship. We will take the time to understand your specific situation, will inform you of your rights, and will keep you informed about your case every step of the way.
So give us a call today at 936-213-8479 to speak to an experienced child support attorney.